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24 Dec

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Last night, I was writing a post about having had a particularly bad day while Christmas shopping. It was a post about struggling with grief over the holidays, about the heartache that comes in those moments when you’ve gotten caught up in the holiday spirit and forgotten that something – that someone – is missing and then you suddenly remember and OOF. It was a post – again, again – about my dad. I was struggling to write it. I was wondering, as I always do, why I persist. I was feeling sad.

As I was agonizing over it, I heard a small voice from the other room, singing, in very high, measured tones, hallelujah.

21 Dec

“Who, If I Cried Out, Would Hear Me?” On Twitter, Tales And Tragedy

When I received the call telling me that my father had died, I cried. I cried loud, I cried hard, I fell to the ground and clutched at my aching chest and I wailed. And then, curled up on the floor, phone in hand, I tweeted.

I tweeted because it was instinct. I tweeted because it was the only thing that I could think of to do. I tweeted because I needed to get the words that were reverberating in my head and smashing against the walls of my mind out out out and into the world so that I could step back and see them/hear them/feel them and know that they weren’t just the narrative of some nightmare conjured up by that corner of my soul that holds and nurtures its darkest fears. I needed to face the words, and know that they were true. I needed to take control of the narration of the terrible story that was unfolding. I needed to speak. I needed to write.

So I tweeted.

8 Dec

Of Shoes And Ships And Sealing Wax And Hoarding Stuff And Things

My dad was a hoarder. When he died, they had to cut through the outside wall of his house to remove his remains. There simply wasn’t room for the coroner to get him through the packed hallway, the corridors lined with stuff. They cut a hole in the wall and pulled out the contents of the room. Including my dad.

Someone thought to board the wall with a piece of plywood, afterward.

The coroner said to me, if you don’t have to go there, you maybe shouldn’t. Someone else said, see if the insurance company will hire cleaners. Someone else said to me, if you go, you have to remember, this is not who he is.

I went. I was afraid, but I went.

My mom came with me. When we got there and went inside, she cried. I stood in his kitchen and looked at the boxes and the books and the electronics and the crocheted wall hangings and the computers – the dozens of computers – and the tools and the CD cases and I ran my fingers over a stack of disemboweled laptops and I thought, oh, Dad.

I might have actually spoken the words aloud. I can’t recall. Oh, Dad, I thought. You had nothing to be ashamed of.

11 Nov

On This Day


I wrote this poem for Remembrance Day (Canada’s Veteran’s Day) when I was in third grade. I was very proud of it: I was asked to read it at that year’s Remembrance Day assembly in my elementary school, and I was the youngest of the students up on stage. I can’t remember much about the reading, only that my heart was pounding and that when everyone bowed their heads for the moment of silence I peeked out from under my bangs and watched to see who in the gymnasium full of kids was picking their nose or poking their neighbor and from my vantage point on the stage felt giddy with the sort of puffed-up childish superiority that only small children on gymnasium stages and politicians can muster. Which is not the point of Remembrance Day, but still. It was a silly poem, I thought once I’d grown and moved on to the angst-ridden tumult of free verse, a silly poem full of all the earnestness and dryness and commitment to basic rhyme schemes that is characteristic of small children with literary ambitions.

9 Nov

Jesus In The Sky With Dinosaurs

When my father died a few months ago, my daughter drew this picture:

budge grandpa

‘This,’ she announced as we huddled over it together at my mother’s kitchen table, filling in the details, “is Grandpa’s Death House. It’s where he lives now.”

“I’m sure that he’s so happy that you made him such a wonderful Death House, sweetie. So happy.”

“He IS so happy. I made it so that every part of it is happy” – she pointed to the clouds made of hearts, the pink motorcycle balancing on the Christmas tree, the friendly shark (“because he needs pets”), the flowers nestled under the window through which the tiny shadow figures of her and her grandpa can be seen standing arm in arm – “so that he will be happy there. It’s where he lives now.” She pulled her crayon back from the picture and studied the finer detailing around the friendly ridgebacked shark. “Can we go visit him?”